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"New Year’s Eve, where auld acquaintance be forgot. Unless, of course, those tests come back positive."
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  Volume No. 18 Issue No. 1 January 2021  

None Book Review   None Community Calendar   None Did You Know?   None FFPD News  
None From the Publisher   None Health and Wellness   None Marks Meanderings   None Monkey Business  
None News From D 49   None People on the Plains   None Pet Adoption Corner   None Pet Care  
None Phun Photos   None Prairie Life   None Rumors   None Wildlife Matters  
Front Page   |   Feature Stories   |   Search This Issue   |   Log In
  July BOE meeting wrap-up
  By Lindsey Harrison

   All members of the El Paso County Colorado School District 49 Board of Education were present for a video conference of the July meeting, except for Kevin Butcher, vice president, who was absent with prior notice.
   Board update
   Dave Cruson, treasurer, thanked the administration, teachers and staff who are preparing themselves for the upcoming school year.
   John Koster, director, thanked the chief officers for each donating $500 per month to be placed in a fund for coronavirus-related issues and 10 “sick days” each to be placed in a COVID-19 sick leave bank.
   Rick Van Wieren, secretary, attended a D 49 graduation ceremony in June and said, “It was so uplifting to see the young and hopeful getting out and starting their new life phases. I just wanted to give a shout out to the Class of 2020 and to the chief officers for helping make what was a difficult year a memorable one for them in a positive way.”
   John Graham, president, acknowledged the efforts of district staff as they work on plans to reopen schools in the fall. “The administration is very busy looking into how best to keep everyone safe and still get a quality education to the students,” he said.
   Chief officers’ update
   Peter Hilts, chief education officer, said he is meeting weekly with members of the El Paso County Public Health Department to ask questions about developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic. District administration is tracking adjustments and to the guidance provided by the medical experts, he said.
   Pedro Almeida, chief operations officer, said he wants to make clear the expectation of change and flexibility as the dominating theme of planning as the district moves forward. “We have to be in a position where we are responding to a number of different things,” he said. “We will respond to clear and unmitigated guidance that comes from the state or from the county when it comes to health issues. The guidance that changes, it may affect some of the things we do in the district. We will respond to the actual conditions of the virus. As we start seeing dynamics that happen here it will influence; it will impact decisions we make in the district.
   “I want to encourage folks to understand that we are going to do the best we can to plan, but we are also going to be ready to change if circumstances require us to change.”
   Almeida said the new building at the Springs Studio for Academic Excellence, which will house the Pikes Peak Early College, has its temporary certificate of occupancy. Other projects funded by the 3B mill levy override money include upgrades to the Falcon High School tennis courts and a new parking lot at Sand Creek High School
   Action items
   The BOE unanimously approved the following:
  • Revisions to the students’ rights and responsibilities handbook
  • A resolution delaying the opening of Spacious Skies Charter School to the fall of 2021 for the 2021-2022 school year
  • Revisions to policies and procedures as follows: board powers and responsibilities; purchasing/purchasing authority; purchasing procedures; vendor relations; school properties disposition; student transportation; bus safety program; district employee/driver requirements, training and responsibilities; use of wireless communication devices while operating a district vehicle; use of school buses by community groups; prioritization of facility improvements; site selection and acquisition; staff dress, accessories and grooming; staff identification cards; substitute and part-time professional staff employment; ensuring all students meet standards; and report of child abuse/child protection

   Discussion items
   Amy Attwood, contract lobbyist for D 49, provided an update on the most recent legislative session and a look at upcoming issues that will be pertinent to the district.
   Hilts presented a request for a dedicated administrative secretary and receptionist at the Creekside Success Center. After some discussion, the board agreed to move the new position’s job description forward for action at the regular August meeting.
   Hilts also presented a request for flexibility to graduation requirements for the 2020-2021 school year to ensure impacts related to COVID-19 for scheduling elective classes do not prevent a student from graduating. The flexibility would be district wide but would allow for principals at each school to make decisions based on individual students’ needs, with the maximum number of allowed waived credits set at 2.5, he said.
   After some discussion, the board agreed to move this item forward for action at the August meeting.
   Brett Ridgway, chief business officer, presented an update on the spring 2020 Chromebook deployment to students and families in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He said about 3,000 devices were lent out and about 246 were damaged or not returned. He proposed a fee assignment for devices not returned or returned damaged and unusable.
   The board discussed various ways to ensure the district’s Chromebooks are returned in the future, including electronic forms for parents/guardians to sign, direct contact when distributing the devices and an agreement to return the device by a certain date or pay the cost to replace it.
   The BOE agreed to move this item forward for action in August.
   Hilts and Almeida presented a reopening plan for the fall and discussed with the board the various ways the district plans to help keep staff and students safe during the upcoming year. Almeida said some strategies could include sanitizing and cleaning buses between every bus run, wall-mounted hand sanitizers at all entrances to classrooms, bringing in storage containers for classroom items and any other mandates handed down from the state or county.
   The next regular meeting of the BOE is Aug. 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the board room at the D 49 Education Services Center.
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  D 49 back-to-school plans an evolving door
  By Lindsey Harrison

   On July 2, the El Paso County Colorado School District 49 administration announced their plan to bring students and teachers back into the classroom for the 2020-2021 school year following a semester of electronic learning because of the coronavirus.
   However, with changing mandates from both the state and federal government, those plans have been evolving on a near-constant basis.
   David Nancarrow, D 49 director of communications, in an email to “The New Falcon Herald,” wrote, “The environment is so dynamic that a here’s-what’s-going-to-happen statement is really difficult to make.”
   In mid-March, the D 49 administration announced the suspension of all schools and programs for two weeks because of COVID-19, and they would begin an e-learning schedule at that time through April 30. However on April 26, the district announced e-learning would continue through the remainder of the school year.
   Nancarrow wrote that the district is preparing for an in-person return based around a safety system that includes physical distancing, cleaning and masks, which would be required for staff and students in grades one through 12. But as regulations and recommendations change, so too will the planned safety system.
   “Our teams of planners, made up of educators, leadership and support staff, along with the board of education, are listening intently to feedback from staff and families, while simultaneously considering the very latest expert guidance from the El Paso County Public Health department, including the new recommendation to delay opening until Aug. 17 as our planning continues,” Nancarrow wrote. “Our reopen will be like no other that we can remember, but we are committed to serving the entire D 49 family by providing our brand of excellent education in the safest way possible.”
   Nancarrow wrote that the district will continue to update their website and other relevant pages with the latest information as they receive it and as plans are made.
   Stay tuned through
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